Director    Catherine Hardwicke
Starring    Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson, Billy Burke, Cam Gigandet, Nikki Reed
Release    12 DEC (US) 19 DEC (UK)    Certificate 12A
3 stars


23rd December 2008

A cynic may read Twilight as a piece of conservative, middle-American propaganda worthy of Joseph Goebbels. It's a shot of abstinence into the pulsating veins of every randy teenager that crosses the cinema threshold. There are the Freudian implications about the exchange of bodily fluids for a start. Twilight practically screams "lingering looks and holding hands is way cooler than rutting behind the bike sheds" in the face of every teenage girl watching.

But heck, it's Christmas, let us placate our inner cynic with a glass of eggnog and a mince pie. Through eggnogged eyes, Twilight is an enchanting fairytale, a gothic spin on a well-trodden Romeo and Juliet trajectory.

Our Juliet is Bella Swan (Stewart), a kooky (but hot) girl from Arizona who moves to Forks, a tiny mountain town in Washington, to live with her father. At her new school she becomes fascinated by the Cullen family, a group of aloof, mysterious outsiders. She is drawn to Edward Cullen (Pattinson) in particular and he takes an unnatural interest in her, always on hand to rescue her from various scrapes.

The initial exchanges between the two are stilted and awkward - during their first encounter Edward looks like he's going to vom. We later learn that Bella's "scent" is intoxicating to him. Bella's gradual realisation that Edward is a vampire is rather protracted, but she gets there eventually. The Cullen's are a family of "vegetarian" vampires who survive on animal blood (like those "vegetarians" that only eat chicken). Edward and Bella soon fall in love, but Edward fears he will lose control and sink his handsome fangs into Bella's neck and turn her into a vampire, so they must keep a safe distance - woo, chastity rules! But the path of true vampire/human love never did run smooth and soon enough a pack of non-veggie vampires show up and set their sights on Bella.

Stewart and Pattinson make an engaging on-screen couple and Pattinson's razor sharp cheekbones and flesh-craving stares are an obvious lure for the teen girl demographic. Hardwicke has done an admirable job of adapting Stephenie Meyer's novel, giving the film a pallid dream-like quality. Twilight avoids high kicking Buffy action, offering a more cerebral take on a teen vampire genre.

Hardwicke plays around with the conventions of both teen movies and vampire films. Bella's goofball friends are often seen larking around in the background, as if they are part of a parallel narrative that Bella would be part of if she had not chosen to be with Edward. Meanwhile the Cullen's do not live in a dark, sinister old house full of coffins and cobwebs as a vampire movie audience has come to expect. Instead they inhabit a slick, minimalist log cabin straight out of an Ikea catalogue.

Twilight is a smart and enjoyable teen vampire flick, despite any "message" it might be hijacked to peddle. With the plot left perfectly poised for a sequel, it won't be long before instalment number two. No necking in the meantime, kids.

More:  Drama  Sex  Vampires  Monsters
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